In May of 2009, the missile-tracking ship General Hoyt S. Vandenberg was hauled out in the Gulf of Mexico. Planted explosives blew holes in the ship's hull, and she sank to the bottom in just a couple of minutes. You can see the process in a time-lapse video. Deliberately sinking a ship sounds like an environmental crime on the surface, but the Vandenberg was carefully prepared: ten tons of asbestos and over 800,000 feet of electrical wiring was removed before she was sunk. The sinking was part of an environmental program to create artificial reefs where sea life -from coral and plankton to game fish- can live and reproduce.
The Vandenberg is certainly not the first ship to be deliberately sunk to create an artificial reef. The waters off the Florida Keys have become the grave site of the Coast Guard cutters Duane and Bibb and the U.S. Navy landing ship Spiegel Grove, and on the sandy bottom 20 or so miles out to sea from Pensacola lies an entire aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Oriskany—the largest ship in the world intentionally sunk as an artificial reef. Dozens of World War II cargo vessels known as Liberty ships have been submerged, or to use the proper jargon, deployed, all along the Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts.
National Geographic tells us the history of artificial reef programs and how they are used to encourage marine life to flourish. Link
(Image credit: David Doubilet/National Geographic)